July 5, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • After he was knocked around by the Yankees yesterday afternoon, the Twins optioned Kevin Slowey back to Triple-A. Slowey went 3-0 in his first seven starts, but the record was due largely to outstanding run support, which among other things kept him from picking up a loss yesterday. I've never been quite as high on Slowey as most Twins fans seem to be, writing the following about his long-term potential in my review of the team's top prospects back in February:
    A lanky right-hander with a smooth delivery and pinpoint control, Slowey has drawn comparisons to Brad Radke. However, Slowey is a unique prospect in that he works almost exclusively with his fastball, so the comparison is ultimately inaccurate until he develops a world-class changeup to go along with it. Slowey should be at least an effective mid-rotation starter, perhaps by midseason, but I'm somewhat skeptical about his becoming much more than that without improved offspeed stuff.

    Beginning with his big-league debut against Oakland and ending with yesterday's rough outing against New York, Slowey definitely showed that he needs "improved offspeed stuff" to approach the type of amazing success that he experienced in the minors. Without it, he had trouble putting big-league hitters away and gave up a ton of fly balls. In fact, his ground-ball percentage would easily rank as the lowest in the entire league if Slowey had enough innings to quality for the ERA title.

    Fly balls turn into home runs at a relatively consistent rate and Slowey served up 13 long balls in just 37 innings. Slowey did a good job throwing strikes and that many homers is likely a fluke in the sense that it's an unsustainably high rate, but not missing any bats and giving up a bunch of fly balls is the worst possible combination for a pitcher. To Slowey's credit, his post-demotion quotes show that he understands that there's still plenty of work to be done:

    The biggest thing is you realize what are good pitches here aren't necessarily the same as a good pitch in Triple-A. Your misses have to be way finer here. I feel that has been my problem and I've really got to work on, when I go down, my misses being balls as opposed to back over the plate and a little too hittable. Goodness knows I got plenty to work on.

    It's amazing how much different those comments are compared to how Matt Garza reacted earlier this season when told to use more offspeed pitches at Triple-A. Despite that, Garza was called up last week and will start tonight against the White Sox. The Twins won't need a fifth starter again until July 21 and Garza could stick around in the bullpen until then if he pitches well, but I suspect that Slowey handling the demotion with class will help him get back to Minnesota more quickly than Garza did.

  • Warriors point guard Baron Davis has been hanging out in France with former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Jessica Alba, no doubt attempting to put the proclamations found in this article to the test. Godspeed, Baron.
  • According to extensive research on the subject, Timberwolves first-round pick Corey Brewer's No. 1 comparable is ... Kristin Cavallari. I'll take it.
  • Over at Slate, NBA player-turned-writer Paul Shirley asks: "What would happen if Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were on the same team?" My answer is "they'd win a whole lot of games," but Shirley's response is a little more interesting. I'll avoid quoting his answer so that you'll go read the article, but here's an excerpt about Garnett:
    Having spent a similar amount of time in the semi-intimate company of both men, I can say confidently that two people couldn't be more different. Kevin Garnett is one of the most impressive humans I've ever been around. Kobe Bryant isn't.

    As a strict contrarian, I wish it weren't so. But in this case, there have been no mischaracterizations. Garnett is noble, loyal, and larger-than-life. And, again, Bryant isn't.

    [...]

    Garnett is a throwback superstar, a Bill Russell for the modern age. When some people conjure up Russell they visualize the consummate winner, a man who led his teams to 11 NBA championships. But I link the two men by personality. By all reports, Russell shares Garnett's intelligence, grace, and intensity. And, in his defense, Garnett has never had a Cousy or a Havlicek.

    If Kevin McHale wasn't a complete disaster as general manager, it's amazing to think of how different Garnett's basketball legacy would be.

  • If being an out of control mess makes you look like this, perhaps everyone should try it.
  • In response to my entry yesterday about the Twins' top-heavy lineup, Ubelmann over at Stick and Ball Guy's blog expanded upon the topic with some interesting numbers. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's his conclusion:
    This is a really pathological kind of offense, and maybe it has something to do with the inconsistency we’ve seen. While it is possible that the Big Four could improve, they’ve been pulling their weight. The key to improving the offense would seem to be replacing a couple of the awful spots in the order with some league average or so production.

    Or, as I put it yesterday: "Give Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Michael Cuddyer some help and the Twins' offense can do some damage."

  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune has decided to put an end to the sports section's minor-league reports. Over at his blog, the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, explains:
    The changing newspaper industry calls for a new business model, one that doesn't have room for a minor league update.

    Apparently the Star Tribune needs more room to run the same cookie-cutter Associated Press articles that can easily be found online or in hundreds of other newspapers. After all, with the newspaper business declining, it's not like offering unique, localized content would make sense. Wait, what? As is increasingly the case when it comes to websites stepping in to provide the content that's lacking in print, there are thankfully several good blogs that offer plenty of fantastic minor-league updates.

  • If no one wants to buy tickets to a concert, can it really be considered "the biggest, hottest, and most expensive rock concert tour of the year"? I turned down free tickets, although it's probably worth noting that my musical taste has been called into question many times. One concert I am planning to go to? Susan Tedeschi at the zoo early next month.
  • With the Twins in town to face the Yankees, the New York media predictably began drooling over the prospect of seeing Johan Santana (and to a lesser extent, Hunter) in pinstripes some day. As usual, Hunter helped feed into the media's coverage of the topic, while the New York Daily News described Santana as "not going anywhere near such speculation" and "steering away from any talk of New York."
  • Pat Neshek's blog-based campaign for the final spot on the AL's All-Star roster failed, with Hideki Okajima and Jeremy Bonderman finishing ahead of him in the "Final Vote" balloting. To make matters worse, Neshek also served up the game-winning homer to Hideki Matsui yesterday afternoon.
  • Along with UFC Junkie, Five Ounces of Pain, and Sherdog, UFC Mania is another MMA blog that's worth checking out.
  • Despite hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer Wednesday against Mike Mussina, Jason Kubel was not in yesterday's starting lineup. Asked about it, Ron Gardenhire said, "I'm trying to protect my left-handed hitter." The idea being that because he's a left-handed hitter, Kubel would have struggled against left-handed pitcher Kei Igawa, who started for the Yankees. Like many things Gardenhire says to the media, that explanation seems logical on the surface before falling apart under further examination.

    If Gardenhire is really so interested in "protecting" his left-handed hitters, why did he refuse to platoon Jacque Jones for four seasons when Jones had clearly proven that he couldn't hit lefties? Instead, he chooses to consistently bench Kubel against southpaws despite the fact that Kubel has actually hit lefties better than righties during his career, including a .282/.333/.410 line against them this season. For comparison, Jones hit .227/.277/.339 against lefties during his Twins career.

    Lew Ford went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts starting in Kubel's place, while Kubel delivered a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera. Kubel has a .460 slugging percentage since May 10 and sports a higher OPS against lefties than Morneau and Mauer (not to mention Ford, Luis Castillo, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Jason Tyner, and Luis Rodriguez), so it's probably safe for Gardenhire to start focusing his protection efforts on one of the team's many hitters who actually need it.

  • When I started this blog back in August of 2002, I was a young blogger at 19 years old. Thanks to the explosion of blogs, it's five years later and I'm now a middle-aged blogger at 24 years old. And if you don't believe me, check out Evan's Sports Machine, a Tigers blog written by an 11-year-old from Detroit who e-mailed me this week. The amazing thing is that he's already been blogging for about a year. Is it a compliment to call someone the Freddy Adu of blogging?

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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